Friday, 30 April 2010

Another Day In The Life

So I phoned the plumbing and heating engineers, the nice lady on the phone said he could come Wednesday morning. This being Monday I didn't think that was too bad. We've had no hot water you see, since Friday. The central heating works fine but the combination boiler refuses point blank to give us anything other than icy, heart stopping, teeth rattling cold water through the taps.

Just before lunchtime on Wednesday, a van pulls up outside and the doorbell rings. I wrestle Murphy the German Shepherd out through the back garden and into my van where he waits patiently hoping that I might release him in time to chase this unwelcome visitor back to where he came from. Murphy doesn't like anyone entering his domain, especially before lunch.

I show the nice young chap my combination boiler, explaining how the central heating works fine but the water is cold from the tap. There is a sharp intake of breath as he whips out a screwdriver and removes the front cover. He then turns on the central heating and we wait while the radiators get hot. (I knew they would, best to check I'm not bull-shitting though I suppose). Then he tries the taps....yes, cold water.

“ see, when these boilers get to this age (it's 5 years old) all sorts of things can start going wrong. I reckon its the Flow Switch unit”

“How much is one of them?”

Sharp intake of breath.... "It varies depending on the model. Could be about £150, maybe as much as £300. That's if I can get one. Then there's the fitting, the call out fees the VAT.....You won't be getting much change out of £350, maybe £500”

“Wow! I didn't expect that. Is there no way to repair the old one”

Sharp intake of breath “You can't get into them you see, it's the way things are designed nowadays. Trouble is with a boiler of this age, (it's still 5 years old) if I replace this then something else is likely to go wrong very soon which might be even more expensive. You have to decide if it's worth keep throwing good money away or just go for a new boiler”

“So how much is a new boiler then”

Sharp intake of breath “Well, I could get one like this for about £2000. Then there is the new flue, various sundries and fittings etc. etc. plus my labour, plus VAT....probably do it for about £3500 all in. Mind you, if you want a decent boiler...........”

I swallow hard, I don't have that sort of cash lying around. I would have to cash in some of our savings to cover it and our plans for the Summer would go straight out of the window. All sorts of thoughts flash through my mind. Will I have to sell the van to raise some cash? Would it be cheaper to sell up and move to a house with a recently installed 'decent' boiler?

After my initial panic subsides and I calm down a bit I come to terms with the fact it has to be done, whatever the cost. “I think we'll go for the new Flow Switch unit then and see how we get on”

“OK I'll try and get one and I'll phone you back with a price before you finally decide” No sharp intake of breath! That's a good thing isn't it?

With that he swiftly puts the cover back on the boiler and leaves, his visit had lasted about 15 minutes. I get Murphy out of the van and feeling rather depressed we go for a walk on the beach. Just when things seem to be picking back up after the recession, this has to happen. Why me? Why is life so complicated all of the time? I bet bloody David Hockney doesn't have these worries. Two miles away we have Sizewell Nuclear Power station, surely I can get a bit of hot water out of my tap.

When I return home I go online to see how much these Flow Switch units cost. You never know, if the engineer calls back with a ridiculous price I may be able to surprise him with my research skills and ingenuity, perhaps save a bit of cash. So, as a starting point I Google the manufacturer and model of my boiler to see what comes up. Immediately I come across a website called '' which has entries from panic stricken, laymen like myself with problems which are answered with advice from knowledgeable professionals. The first post I read describes the symptoms that my sickly boiler has exactly. The advice is to buy a new Flow Switch Diaphragm, to open the Flow Switch Unit and replace it. It went on to say this is a very common problem with these boilers. It gave me a part number for the spare part and instructions how to fit it. I looked online and found a supplier of the afore mentioned Flow Switch Diaphragm and the cost? Including VAT and courier service £11.95p!

Today is Friday, my trusty central heating engineer has not rung back yet. I've just gotten out of a lovely steaming hot shower having spent approximately one hour replacing my Flow Switch Diaphragm. The smile is back on my face, the sun is shining and I'm looking forward the bank holiday weekend.

Central heating engineers? I've shit 'em!


Pat said...

thank heaven for the decent professionals who give their help freely!
Research in any engineering field is priceless if you want to avoid the cowboys.
Lost count of the amount of mechanics who've tried to snow me, before they realise I used to do car mechanics!!!

TotalArtSoul said...

What a total B******!!!! It just goes to show, never accept anything anyone tells you. Now I've learned to smile sweetly, thank them very much, then go off and do my homework! This is a good lesson to us all Peter. Glad you're smiling again. :-)

Anonymous said...

Peter we had exactly the same problem with our combi boiler last year. After three visits they diagnosed it as a faulty flow switch diaphragm.
We have a contract with the gas people otherwise I'm sure we would have been in a similar situation.

Glad you got it sorted, I have had lots of success repairing pc bits and pieces via forums etc,

mooaany said...

With your sense of humor you have managed to tell a story with sad fact and good outcome, in this day and time it pays to do your research.

I wish my mother had thought to do that when she was convinced to buy 4 new tires for an unbelievably low milage car.

Moral of the Story:

So be it boiler or car or kitchen sink, these days everyone needs to do the research!

meerfisch said...

Well done!! It just goes to show, with a little bit of courage, you can do anything. Lol! You can now apply to become a corgi registered heating enginieer now, cos you now have the know how. Ha Ha!

Peter Williams said...

Angela, as you live just up the road from me it's a good warning. If you have CH problems....don't call Saunders!

Angela said...

Hi Peter,

Many thanks for your advice, it has been noted. As I do most of my own repair work, the website you have used for your CH will be of great use to me.

Many Thanks,

Hope to see you at your next exhibition.

Maher said...

Many thanks for your advice,I saved
myself £250 and not to forget the 20% vat.
God Bless you